Notice to Industry 5: Veterinarians Biosecurity requirements

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The outcome of this document is for veterinarians treating imported live horses at post arrival quarantine isolation facility to be informed of their biosecurity requirements and their obligation to comply with these requirements. This document excludes horses imported from New Zealand and New Caledonia.

This document is provided for information only. To the extent that this document is inconsistent with any import permit, direction, industry notice or authorisation to enter a quarantine isolation facility, the terms and conditions of the import permit, direction, industry notice or authorisation to enter a quarantine isolation facility take precedence and will apply. Failure to comply with a condition of an import permit, direction, industry notice or authorisation to enter a quarantine isolation facility may constitute an offence.


Each year, hundreds of live horses are imported into Australia. Each consignment may pose a biosecurity risk from animal diseases such as equine influenza (EI), equine viral arteritis, contagious equine metritis, piroplasmosis, surra and Japanese encephalitis. Additionally, the import of horses presents a plant quarantine risk due to the potential for weed seeds to be present in the air stalls, equipment and animal faeces.

The import of live horses is regulated by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (the department). The department has developed conditions for the import of horses to ensure that any potential biosecurity risks can be managed. Strict pre-export and post arrival quarantine (PAQ) isolation requirements apply to imported horses, and all people and goods that come into contact with imported horses.

The primary disease of concern when handling imported horses is EI. This disease can be transmitted via an infected horse, either directly or via people or equipment in contact with an infected horse. The EI virus can be inactivated in a variety of ways, including by using soaps, detergents, acids and oxidising agents (such as Virkon).

Veterinarians treating imported horses in PAQ isolation have the potential to transmit EI virus. Equipment used in the feeding, handling and treatment of the horses in PAQ isolation also carries a risk of transmitting EI. The Biosecurity Act 2015 provides biosecurity officers with the authority to give directions or require a person who may have been exposed to a disease or pest, such as by contact with goods that are subject to biosecurity control (i.e. imported horses and horse equipment), to do certain things. These directions or requirements may include undertaking appropriate decontamination measures.

Personal biosecurity requirements

Veterinarians attending the horse compound are required to:

  • Wear dedicated clothing (including underwear and socks) and footwear in the horse compound. This clothing and footwear must remain in the horse compound.
  • Undertake a complete head to toe, 3 minute shower (including washing hair and cleaning under fingernails) before leaving the horse compound.
  • Change into clean clothing (including underwear and socks) and footwear (or clothing/footwear taken off prior to entry into the horse compound) immediately before leaving the horse compound.

Refer to the reference:  Personnel- biosecurity requirements (2.11) for more information.

Any personal equipment (e.g. mobile phones, tablets, paperwork, eyeglasses etc) used on site must either:

  • Remain in the horse compound until the end of PAQ isolation OR
  • Be decontaminated prior to leaving the horse compound by wiping down the equipment with alcohol wipes OR
  • For simple jewellery, it may be permitted to enter and leave the horse compound if it can be adequately disinfected.
  • As such, visitors are advised to only take essential equipment in to the horse compound. Visitors must not take unauthorised equipment or personal effects into the compound. Limited secure storage is available in each compound access point for small personal items not needed inside the horse compound.

It is not a requirement for veterinarians to shower prior to entering the horse compound. In order to protect the health of horses in the horse compound and reduce the risk of introduction of endemic disease, veterinarians may choose to shower off site prior to entry to the quarantine isolation facility.
Note: Veterinarians are permitted to move from one horse compound to the other but must follow all personnel and equipment decontamination procedures when leaving each compound.

Requirements at the quarantine isolation facility

Requirements for the horse compound

  • Veterinarians must be registered in accordance with State legislation.
  • Only veterinarians authorised by the importer of the horses will be eligible for permission to enter the horse compound. The importer will provide the department with the relevant authorisation form for each veterinarian.
  • Non-inducted or previously authorised equine veterinary surgeon may enter under a ‘contingency entry’ when required in an emergency. 
  • Non-essential visitors will not be given permission by department to enter the horse compound.
  • All veterinarians attending the horse compound must be given permission by the department. The department can issue a 12 month permission to enter the horse compound.
  • Veterinarians must have completed the following department training within the last 12 months:
    • Exotic equine diseases
    • Biosecurity requirements at the horse compound
    • Quarantine isolation facility site induction (horses)
  • Veterinarians are also required to sign and comply with all requirements outlined in the form: Permission for a veterinarian, farrier, or other authorised visitor to enter, leave and take goods into and out of a quarantine isolation facility (3.8b).
  • Veterinarians will be issued with an access card by security on the first day of duty for the intake. This card must be returned once the horses have been released.
  • The official visitors register (form: Authorised horse visitors register (3.7)) must be completed and signed in the presence of a biosecurity officer upon entry and exit from the horse compound. 

Biosecurity requirements during PAQ isolation

During PAQ isolation, the veterinarians are required to:

  • Record details of all health inspections on form: Veterinary health inspection of horse in PAQ isolation (3.13) for each horse inspected.
  • Record all clinical findings, any abnormalities and all treatments for each horse on the form. Horse’s daily observation record (3.15).
  • Request permission to give any treatments that may compromise the identification of any disease of biosecurity concern (including anti-inflammatory/antipyretic drugs) from the veterinary officer (VO) prior to application.
    • If such treatment is required after hours, contact the VO via their mobile phone for permission [refer to Reference: Emergency contact information – horses (4.2)].
    • If the VO is unable to be contacted, the veterinarian must contact the assistant director – horses (or delegate); and advise the VO the following business day according to routine notification of veterinary attendance and treatments.
  • Label and store any medication in accordance with Australian veterinary medicines legislation.
  • Verbally advise the VO or horse compound manager (or delegate) immediately if there are significant abnormalities in any horse. Abnormalities include but are not limited to increased temperature, coughing or nasal discharge.
    • Notify the VO and/or horse compound manager (or delegate) if at any time the rectal temperature is 38.5°C or higher or the temperature of any ‘foal at foot’ is 39°C or higher.
    • The VO or horse compound manager (or delegate) will direct that a nasopharyngeal swab (nasal swab for foals) to test for equine influenza virus is collected.
  • Collect all diagnostic samples under department supervision according to instructions provided by the biosecurity officer or VO.

Note: An additional nasopharyngeal swab does not need to be taken if swabs have been taken within the last 24 hours and sent for testing.

  • In instances where a horse has a persistently elevated temperature (over 38.5 for more than 4 consecutive days), the importer may make an application to reduce the frequency of swabbing.
    • A written application must be made to the Horse, Livestock and Bird Imports Program in Canberra via the VO or assistant director – horses (or delegate).
    • This application must include the details for this ‘case’, and any other relevant horses in the quarantine isolation facility.
    •  There is no guarantee that the frequency will be varied after the 4-day period and each case will be assessed on its merits.
  • Ensure that permission is granted by the horse compound manager (or delegate) before equipment may be taken into the horse compound.
    • All equipment used in the feeding, handling and treatment of the horses in PAQ isolation must be new or cleaned and disinfected before use.
    • All equipment must be used only in the dedicated horse compound for the duration of the PAQ isolation, unless otherwise approved by the department.
  • Ensure that any equipment that has been given permission to be removed from the horse compound prior to release has been disinfected to the satisfaction of the department prior to removal from the horse compound.
  • Provide all required equipment including diagnostic instruments and medications for use during PAQ isolation.
  • If laboratory testing is required for a general health check, notify the laboratory, the VO and horse compound manager (or delegate).

Refer to the work instruction: Collecting, packaging and dispatching of samples taken from imported horses in quarantine isolation (3.4) for more information.

  • Dispose of all pathological waste and sharps in the designated containers within the horse compound.
  • Report any breach or suspected breach of biosecurity procedures (by them or any other person) to the horse compound manager (or delegate).

Related material

Reference: Emergency contact information – horses (4.2)

Document information

The following table contains administrative metadata.

Instructional material owner:

Director, Horses, Livestock and Bird Imports Program

IML document ID:


Freedom of information exemption:


TRIM container number:


Review date:

August 2020

Version history

The following table details the published date and amendment details for this document.



Amendment details



To inform veterinarians of their biosecurity requirements, to incorporate information from the December 2007 SOP and comments from AQIS regions and HICC members.



Updated to incorporate advice from AQIS regions at October meeting and legal advice. Includes final email comments from regional staff.



Updated for consistency with Authorisation documents regarding rectal temperatures of ‘foals at foot’.



Amended following meeting on 13 May 2009



Amended following advice from BA regarding swabbing



Updated on new template; updated for new quarantine facility.

7.016/06/2016Updates to comply with the Biosecurity Act 2015
​8.0​30/08/2017​Updated contingency entry for equine veterinary surgeons in the case of an emergency​
Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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